The First Frogs Call: launching a seasonal memoir
Here I launch a most unconventional series, in a most unconventional of years. This gap between ending my job in Dubai (April 2021) and beginning a new one in Mumbai (July 2022) calls to me to stoke the creative fires. I’m always amazed how the brain lights up with creativity when it’s removed from the grind of work and career.
I’ll structure what I’m calling a seasonal memoir on the Japanese notion of microseasons: 72 to be exact. This provides much more opportunity for observation and reflection than the conventional and generic four-season descriptors of summer, fall, winter, and spring.
I’ll start with where I am in the world, and share what the Japanese call it in their part of the globe (fortuitously, I expect to be in a fairly equivalent climate). I’ll then make some observations on what’s getting my attention outside, tapping into the primal urge to connect with nature (and its cathartic effect). I’ll include a little half-assed Internet research for those who like to clutter their minds with factoids (yes, please!).
I’ll then move on to what I’m doing, and how I’m doing it at that moment in time, but starting first with why I’m doing what I’m doing. This will simply catalog what rarely gets recorded, like a journal would.
I’ll end the post with an exercise in contemplation, drawing on wisdom traditions. This is where I hope to have the most fun. I’ll try not to sound like a preaching fool. Good luck!
May 5–9, 2021; Princeton, MA, USA
The First Frogs Call (Summer)
Seasonal Memoir #1
The frogs are best heard in the dead of the night. Once the crickets have stopped their racket, the frogs have the stage. It’s warm enough now to liven up these creatures from their winter slumber, and they are hard at work. From the Smithsonian Magazine: “When Darwin’s frog tadpoles hatch, a male frog swallows the tadpoles. He keeps the tiny amphibians in his vocal sac for about 60 days to allow them to grow. He then proceeds to cough up tiny, fully formed frogs.” (Whoa! And to think (human) fathers puff out their chests in accomplishment by simply changing a diaper.)
Wildflowers are not yet joining the daffodils, violets, tulips, and countless dandelions, but their day will come. It’s time to plant your raised beds of vegetables, taking your chances that a sudden frost won’t arrive until October at the earliest. Buds on trees are everywhere, as my burning eyes can attest to, and fruit trees spread their plumage of flowers. Where are the bees?
I have spent this first week back in the country setting up shop: electricity, oil, and internet for the rental; new SIM. I have cherished the time with family, and in re-establishing friendships left behind when we went overseas. Worcester Red Sox baseball is on the horizon. Each day is filled with exercise, deliberate rest, mundane practical tasks, and creative endeavors. What a difference a change in geography makes!
Though I still have some obligations in the Middle East, and I am pursuing new professional opportunities for the new school year, I have had the space to be present for the transition. William Bridges in Transitions explains that the challenge of change (in jobs, relationships, geography) is more mental than mechanical, and that all transitions must first start with an ending. The phrase “let it die” rules the day, and in my case, changing jobs, I need to disengage from tasks I’d normally be responsible for, and dismantle my formal responsibilities as school leader. I also need to notice and embrace disenchantments, such as “I thought…”, and sit patiently during any disorientation to my identity (how would I respond to ‘what do you do?’). In doing so, I can transition in a healthy way rather than just change my circumstances.
But why care about making a thoughtful transition? I suppose it’s simply whether one wants peace of mind as opposed to a restless mind, full of rebuke and regret. Numbing, though it holds acute appeal, ultimately hinders. Properly ending a chapter in your life, before moving on to a new beginning, presents the opportunity to come out on the other side not only different, but stronger and wiser, with one’s priorities firmly in place, not to mention being more resilient. It’s worth the effort, imho.